Enthusiasm is a component of education that you always want but on which you can’t count. Enthusiastic students tend to be better, more motivated learners but it’s hard to tell when you can spark that enthusiasm. Below are four tips that you as an educator can use to try to fan the flame of enthusiasm.
If you want your students to show enthusiasm, you’ll have to build up some momentum. Enthusiasm can help to raise the curiosity of students and get them interested in topics that they might normally ignore. While it’s certainly difficult to get invested in a topic that you aren’t interested in on a personal level, it’s often helpful to remember that it’s possible to get excited about the end results. If you are unwilling to be engaged, you can’t expect anything more from your students. You should be the place from which enthusiasm initially flows.
Students are more likely to buy into a given program if they are given some choice in the matter. It isn’t necessary that the students decide everything, but giving them input can greatly raise the level of investment. Think about choosing the best mascots for your school’s sports teams as an example. While you don’t necessarily want to give the students free reign to choose any mascot, giving them a set of choices from which to choose is likely to make the students more invested in making sure one of those choices wins. Even if the choices given are limited, students like to know that their voices are heard. Giving a student a choice gives that student a brief window in which they have power over their own fate, something which can be a fantastic motivational tool.
Give Them a Reason to Care
You can only expect enthusiasm from students in certain situations. Try as you might, you will be unlikely to drum up a great deal of support for several days of standardized testing. If you want your students to care about something, make sure they have a reason to do so. Tailor the activities about which you wish your students to care to those things that matter to them. Connect your activities to the things they care about and that will benefit them. Like adults, students tend to become more enthusiastic when they can see the relationship between the activity and their own lives. If you are willing to give your students a reason to care about what happens in your classroom, you’ll be surprised by how many respond positively.
Show the Results
Finally, be willing to share the results. As a teacher, you’ve already had ideas like value-added learning drilled into you from years of schooling. If you want to show your students why something mattered, show them the value that was added. If you are drumming up support for a charity campaign, show how the donations from last year changed lives. If you are doing something with the school, show how a similar campaign had a marked impact on the lives of the students. While you probably won’t get an overwhelming response from raw data, showing your students contextualized results can pay out huge dividends. If you can be honest about the results, you can expect a better investment from your students.
Enthusiasm can be difficult to pull out of high school students, but it isn’t impossible. When you are realistic about what you can expect and what your students want, you can find a way to make them care. You may not reach all of them, but those you do reach will be better for your efforts.